Center Theatre

218 S. Main Street,
Fall River, MA 02721

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spectrum
spectrum on January 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

The Center Theatre has been demolished. A modern government office building now occupies the site.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 15, 2010 at 4:41 am

In the October 30, 1961 issue of Boxoffice Magazine, an ad was run showing how many mainstream theatres were showing Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a subtitled Italian movie. This theatre was one of those. Link to ad, then expand:
View link

paradoxfox
paradoxfox on May 5, 2009 at 10:38 am

Downtown was abandoned by retail, and parking there was a problem, by the late seventies. Movie houses in malls offered more to do, and far better parking. The cinema was doomed by this, as well as all the other factors that affected Downtown Fall River.

…but I’ll always remember the films I saw, the carpeted stairs, and all that made the space a special one.

There was indeed a XXX film place across from the old capital and that was one of the places counselor Roderick was referring to.

paradoxfox
paradoxfox on May 5, 2009 at 10:31 am

I remember well the center, it being my well looked forward to, destination every Saturday afternoon. This throughout the sixties and seventies.

It lacked the glamor of the Durfee but ran all the movies I ever wanted to see.

As a child I remember the church newspaper condemning the showing of “the robe” at the Center…but I also remember walking to it with my school group from St. Louis School to see a saints biography shown there.

paradoxfox
paradoxfox on May 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

I can confirm that the Center Theater was open in 1978.

…and it did offer it’s services to those during the great Blizzard. During that storm buses ceased running prior prior to some school closings, and roads became impassible. Several I knew took shelter in the Center, which welcomed, and allowed to stay, in it’s facility for the next few days. These souls unable to make it home through the storm, and away from the places they had worked or went to school, now shut down.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 12, 2007 at 7:57 am

There is a MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Center Theatre with an exterior photo dated May 1941. That photo is posted just above by Gerry DeLuca. The Report states that the Center is on South Main St., that it has been showing MGM product for 1 year; that it was built in 1940 and is in Excellent condition, and has 894 seats on the main floor and 496 balcony seats, total: 1,390 seats. Someone wrote “was Olympia” on the form, which is incorrect.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 16, 2006 at 6:03 am

Dick, all I have in pictures of this theatre are the following two made from poor photocopies:

CENTER THEATRE, 1941

CENTER THEATRE, 1968 sketch of proposed alterations.

DickMorgan
DickMorgan on October 16, 2006 at 3:20 am

Thanks for bringing my memory into focus!

I still mourn the loss of the Center theatre. What a treasure that was and appreaciate the history details you mentioned in your entry above. I only wish someone had photos of this theatre, both the exterior and interior were interesting from an “deco” point of view.

I live down in the south here in Roanoke, VA and all but one theatre is gone. Most people around here have memories of only but one or two theatres that were here but I know due to the size of the city there were many more. Fortunatly we still have the Grandin Theatre which is in a nice little neighborhood not far from where I live. It’s an old theatre that has been restored but it is not an Architecual wonder. Nevertheless the Grandin provides this city with many films which never would be featured at the mulitplexes. I am grateful to this organization and contribute what I can to keep this theatre going.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 16, 2006 at 12:36 am

Dick, I didn’t notice that closing date discrepancy. I was quoting written sources I found, some of which may have contained errors. The other x-rated house on Main Street was Cinema I. It was opened, I am assuming, by the folks that had run the one on Pleasant Street once it closed. So there were two theatres named Cinema I at different times. The later one was the porno house of which you speak, diagonally across from the Capitol. I believe it was a small new theatre, carved out of an existing building. That theatre also has a page on Cinema Treasures, right here.

DickMorgan
DickMorgan on October 15, 2006 at 11:39 pm

Mr. Deluca, in your June 26, 2006 entry you state; “The Center closed in May, 1977”. Yet in your June 27, 2006 entry it is noted that “on Tuesday, February 6, 1978, people came in off the street seeking refuge in the Center lobby. Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta was on one screen, Heroes with Henry Winkler was on the other.”. Had the Center closed in 1977 and then re-open for a short time or could the information in regard to the 1977 closing be in error?.

Also was it the Academy and the Strand (Cinema I) which were the 2 x-rated theatre? I also seem to recall at that time a small theatre further south on Main St. which featured x-rated movies too. I believe it was not far accross the street from the old Capital Theatre (which was then a bolling alley or furniture store?) and was housed in what had been a small threatre long shuttered before it became an “x” house. Forgive me here as I am really picking my memory from decades ago!!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 2, 2006 at 4:30 am

The film that broke records at the Center was Jaws, which played for nine weeks for four or five shows daily in 1975. The second biggest attraction, according to manager John McAvoy, was The Godfather.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2006 at 11:59 pm

When the great blizzard of the millenium struck the Northeast on Tuesday, February 6, 1978, people came in off the street seeking refuge in the Center lobby. Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta was on one screen, Heroes with Henry Winkler was on the other. As the weather worsened, the few customers were sent home. The Center Twin closed for three days. After that, with a city still under snow, it re-opened with Walt Disney’s Candleshoe on one screen and Saturday Night Fever on the other. The next day The Betsy replaced Fever. The theatre was extremely busy that weekend. Cars were banned from the streets but the theatre was very crowded as people walked in droves to see movies there and escape cabin fever. The Sunday-after-the-storm audience was extremely rough and tough but the manager could not hire a policeman since they were all busy with emergency work related to the snow.
(Adapted from a full story in the Fall River Herald News, April 9, 1983.)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2006 at 11:42 am

A capsule history of the Center Theatre:

The Center Theatre opened on Friday , October 16, 1940. The feature presentation was The Howards of Virginia starring Cary Grant and Martha Scott. The style and structure of the theatre was like that of the Cinema de la Cour in Paris. Its front facade was meant to give the appearance of a pipe organ. It had the widest aisles between rows of any theatre in the city. The scenic decorations in the theatre were the work of the Spanish artrist Juan y Alonzo. The theatre’s three-week engagement of Gone With the Wind was the longest running movie in Fall River up to that time. There were two staircases leading to the mezzanine and balcony. The murals on either side of the auditorium were 14 feet wide and 30 feet tall. One depicted War and the other Peace. Screen star Diana Lynn, who appeared on the Center stage, said that the Center was the ideal motion picture theatre.

The theatre was renovated in 1968 with a new facade, marquee, and refurbished lobby and a relocated boxoffice. Projection was upgraded and permitted the showing of 70MM prints.

In 1970 the theatre was converted to a twin facility and became Center Cinema I & II. The inaugural films for the twinned Center were Goodbye, Mr. Chips for Cinema I and M.A.S.H. for Cinema II.

The Center closed in May, 1977. The last films were shown on Sunday, May 1st and were Freaky Friday and Black Sunday. Edward Lider, president of the Allston-based Fall River Theatre Corporation that ran the theatre, cited the doubling of taxes in the previous five years after renovations. Surrounding businesses had either closed of been torn down and the theatre had been left all alone, according to Lider.

City Councillor Roderick led a fight to save and re-open the Center Twin Cinema. “The closing deprives the city of its only family theater. A city with only two X rated movie houses and nothing else doesn’t set a good precedent.”

The Center never re-opened.

(Information synthesized from various newspaper reports found in the “Theatres” Fall River file in the Fall River Library.)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 6, 2006 at 4:34 am

An impressive collection of rare photos of historic Fall River theatres can be seen by clicking here.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 17, 2005 at 9:15 am

from The Providence Journal, May 6, 1968:

Churchgoers Told Not to Attend [Center] Cinema Theater

The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Daniel F. Shalloo told parishioners yesterday at Holy Name Church in Fall River not to patronize the [Center] Cinema Theater as long as it shows what he said were objectionable films.

Persons attending mass in Our Lady of the Angels Church and St. Mary’s Cathedral were warned not to see “The Fox,” which is currently playing at the theater.

“The Fox” is adapted from a novel of the same name by the famed English author, D. H. Lawrence.

[Note: The Fox dealt with two lesbians and starred Sandy Dennis, Anne Heywood, and Keir Dullea. At this time the theatre was known as Center Cinema.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 30, 2005 at 6:58 am

Fascinating comments, especially since there is such a dearth of info on Fall River movie theatre history. You mention the Elmwood in Providence again, and Ben-Hur. That’s where I saw it when it came out. I went July 3, 1960.

DickMorgan
DickMorgan on July 30, 2005 at 6:43 am

This is where I saw Ben-Hur back in October of 1960. Back in those days, Fall River did not get films such as Ben-Hur until months after their hard ticket engagements in Boston and Providence had started. I was 10 years old at the time and the main reason I wanted to see this film was my friends at school told me it was a real blood bath. My Mom was not keen on the idea of me going since she felt the film would be too long for me to sit through and too violent (imagine!). Yes, I was impressed with the amount of blood I saw; movies back then were pretty bloodless compared to today (I was not allowed to see Psycho). But viewing this film changed the way I looked at movies forever. At ten years old, I realized what the whole wide screen movie thing was about; Ben-Hur just exploded off the screen. The Center Theatre had decent 70mm projection but I don’t think they had any kind of sound system to match the Cinerama or Elmwood in Providence at this time. I am not sure but I think the only other theater in Fall River to have true 70mm projection was the Strand. The Durfee, the Empire, the Capitol, the Academy did not. I never could understand why the Sound of Music played the Durfee rather than the Center (both of these theaters were under the same ownership). I will write more about this under the Durfee theater page when I have a chance.

I also remember seeing West Side Story here and in this case I recall a much improved sound system for this film. Other films that had played here; the Longest Story, Mutiny on the Bounty, Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady and I guess anything that was big and wide screen.

This is where I had seen Cleopatra as well. By the time this film came to Fall River it had pretty much been edited and chopped down from the 245 minutes in its Boston Music Hall Engagement to 194 minutes. The print I saw here was terrible as well, with a purple strip running down the left side of the screen. I returned with a friend the following week and that same purple strip was still there. I wonder if perhaps this may have been some kind of 35mm print formatted for wide screens? Cleopatra played 4 weeks here and in both times I saw this film the theater was barely a third full. In Fall River the admission for Cleopatra was $2.00. Until then I think the highest admission ever charged in the city was $1.25, and that was for bigger movies like West Side Story. (Generally the admission for most films was $1.00. Children prices were generally 35c except for Walt Disney films where the price went up to 50c! I also remember a time when the Academy charged 10c per child and would show four films and shorts and cartoons for an entire Saturday afternoon.)

I may be wrong but I believe the only film to have a hard ticket engagement at the Center Theater may have been My Fair Lady. It wasn’t long after this that they closed the Center theater and re-opened it as a twin. What a superb job they did, transforming this incredible art deco movie house into a horrible cheesy garish and ugly twin theater. I am not sure of the date they did this but I know when The Singing Nun came out with Debbie Reynolds in 1966, the damage had already been done.

The thing that was unique about the Center was the fact it was constructed just for the main purpose of showing movies; unlike the Durfee, the Empire or the Academy which were converted from Stage or Vaudeville. I wish I had more history on this theater and would love to see some photos of its interior. I recall the brush chrome railings on the staircase leading to the balcony. Also in the main auditorium were images of Greek or Roman Gods on the both sides of the walls. Pure Art Deco elegance and simplicity, and gone forever.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2005 at 12:04 pm

The film Never on Sunday with Melina Mercouri, played here in September, 1961. It had already appeared before that at the Academy and was now doing a grind run here with six showings between noon to 9:27 P.M. Ads even appeared in the Newport Daily News.

musirama
musirama on February 24, 2005 at 9:40 pm

Most of the building is still standing,but has been drastically remodeled.The lobby and shops have been demolished.

ghpetrin
ghpetrin on October 14, 2004 at 11:31 am

This was an art deco style theatre that featured first-run movies. It was torn down and a brick office building built in its place.